Back To School Tips: Information You Can Use Now!

Back To School Tips   by Roni Gillenson, LMFT, Program Director ACS’ On-Campus Counseling Program

As teens reluctantly head back to school and leave the lazy days of summer behind, we are reminded of the stress that lies ahead for our youth.  While returning to school can be an exciting time to get reacquainted with friends and teachers, it can also be the start of what may be some of the most stressful times of their lives.

In these first few months of school, it is important for both students and parents to become aware of how stress can impact teenagers and learn ways to manage stress before it becomes overwhelming for them.  Because one of the main causes of stress for teens is academic pressure, we all need to look very carefully at how our teens are managing in school to be able to help them.

Adolescent stress is a topic of concern for our community.  Our teenagers are overbooked, lack time management skills, are driven to succeed and are overwhelmed.  While many adults remember their teen years with fond memories of friends and fun, our teens are dealing with conflicting demands from teachers, parents, and friends.

The primary source of tension in adolescence today include academic pressure, relationship difficulties with peers, conflicts with parents and pressure to succeed.  Add to this that during the teen years, they are stuck in a place where they are given many of the responsibilities of an adult without the freedom and independence of adulthood.

Often teens have not yet developed the coping skills required to deal with stress, and therefore their responses to stress tend to be unhealthier.  These unhealthy responses may include anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness, drug and alcohol use, and depression.

Although stress is uncomfortable, it is not unmanageable.  There are ways that teens can work to deal with the stress they experience before it becomes overwhelming.  For example, learning to manage their time.  Teens, not unlike many adults, tend to have difficulty organizing their time and as a result become overbooked and overwhelmed.  Developing the skills to prioritize and schedule can be important in relieving some stress.  Maintaining friendships and taking time to enjoy life is also very important in stress management and reduction.  Finally main-taining some physical activity or regular exercise is extremely beneficial to dealing with stress.

When stress does become overwhelming, there are still options.  Learning relaxation techniques to self sooth before panicking, talking to friends that may be experiencing similar stress, and talking to parents about what they are going through can be very important during these difficult times.

Many teens seek help from a counselor to deal with stress that has become overwhelming, or to help them to manage some of their stressors in their lives.  Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS) has counselors available on all of the middle school and high school campuses in Palo Alto as well as Menlo Atherton High School, Redwood High School and La Entrada Middle School for teens that may need a safe place to talk.  Teen stress is a problem, but there are solutions and people who can help make this stress more manageable.

 Did you know?

  • Teen’s busy schedules often compete with the biological need for sleep.  Sleep deprivation is another source of stress.
  • Even the most well adjusted teens experience stress in relationships with parents due to the developmental struggle between dependence and independence.
  • Peer group stress tends to be highest during the middle school years

‘Points to Follow’ for Both Children and Parents:

• Talk with your child. Find out what’s happening in his life. Be honest and open with him. He should talk about his problems or write them down. Teach him to transfer coping strategies to other situations.

• Don’t burden them with your problems. But, tell children about the family’s goals and discuss difficulties in a friendly manner.

• Compliment children when they do well, and don’t forget hugs and kisses.

• Use humor to buffer bad feelings and situations. A child who learns to use humor himself will be better able to keep things in perspective.

• Don’t overload your child with too many after-school activities and responsibilities. Let children learn to pace themselves. Don’t enroll them in every class that comes along, and don’t expect them to be first in everything.

• Set a good example. Demonstrate self-control and coping skills. He can benefit by seeing how you cope successfully with stress.

• Get friends’ or professional help when problems seem beyond your skills

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